Monday, August 30, 2004

HASTERT SLANDERS SOROS. WILL ANYONE NOTICE? Welcome to the official kickoff of Media Log's coverage of the Republican National Convention. I'm taking a radically different approach from the way I covered the Democrats - rather than traveling to New York, I'm embedded at Media Log Central, where I have non-stop access to cable TV, radio, and the Internet. Modern political conventions are TV shows, so why not cover them that way?

I posted some pre-convention items on Saturday and Sunday, so by all means scroll down and have a look. Meanwhile, I want to call your attention to House Speaker Dennis Hastert's astonishing remarks on Fox News Sunday yesterday, in which he said he doesn't know whether billionaire financier George Soros gets any of his money from the international drug cartels.

Think I'm kidding? Well, the transcript is available. The occasion was a joint appearance by Hastert and Senate majority leader Bill Frist - their "first joint TV interview ever," said host Chris Wallace, who unctuously added, "So thank you for honoring us with that."

Within a few minutes, Hastert was honoring Wallace and his viewers with slander against Soros so mind-boggling that Wallace appeared stricken. Let's roll the tape:

WALLACE: Let me switch subjects. You both had very deep reservations about McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform before it was passed. In fact, I think you say in your book, Mr. Speaker, that you thought it was the worst piece of legislation that had been passed by a Republican Congress since you've come to Washington.

Now that everyone seems upset with these so-called independent 527 groups, whether it's on the liberal side of the spectrum or Swift Boat Veterans for Truth on the conservative side, do you feel like saying, "I told you so"?

HASTERT: Well, you know, that doesn't do any good. You know, but look behind us at this convention. I remember when I was a kid watching my first convention in 1992, when both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party laid out their platform, laid out their philosophy, and that's what they followed.

Here in this campaign, quote, unquote, "reform," you take party power away from the party, you take the philosophical ideas away from the party, and give them to these independent groups.

You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where - if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from. And I ...

WALLACE: Excuse me?

HASTERT: Well, that's what he's been for a number years - George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot of ancillary interests out there.

WALLACE: You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?

HASTERT: I'm saying I don't know where groups - could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know. The fact is we don't know where this money comes from.

Of course, it's true that "we don't know" whether George Soros gets his money from international narco-terrorists. It's also true that we don't know whether Dennis Hastert supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in order to conceal his own longtime relationship with a man back in his district. I mean, Hastert is probably straight, and his marriage probably isn't just an elaborate ruse. But hey ... we just don't know, do we?

And by the way, mega-kudos to Wallace. If he hadn't pressed Hastert on whether he might be referring to "the drug cartel," Hastert could have claimed later that he meant the Drug Policy Alliance, an anti-prohibition group that Soros supports. Not that that would have made any sense - after all, Hastert was clearly talking about groups that give to Soros, not get money from him. But Wallace forced Hastert to make his ugly insinuation explicit.

So are the mainstream media going to take note of Hastert's slanderous aside? Or will it be allowed simply to fade to nothingness? [Update: The New York Daily News nails Hastert here.]

GUERRIERO'S MOMENT. This could be a big week for Patrick Guerriero, the former Melrose mayor who's now executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans. The Bush-Cheney campaign is trying mightily to toe the line between hard-right anti-gay politics and happy-face image-making. Guerriero is making it clear that no compromise is possible: if you embrace hate politics, you're a hater, period.

The Globe's Yvonne Abraham profiles Guerriero today, and he has an op-ed piece in the paper as well.

SEEING RED, SPENDING GREEN. If nothing else, the Republican convention is an opportunity for the New York Times to rake in big bucks from anti-Bush organizations.

Its 20-page special section on the convention today has no less than five full-page ads from groups critical of the Republicans: the MoveOn PAC (nine former Bush voters who are supporting Kerry); the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (an anti-privatization lobbying group); the Center for American Progress ("Cost of Iraq War: $144,400,000,000"); Sojourners, a religious-left organization ("God Is Not a Republican"); and Mainstream 2004, moderate Republicans who feel alienated by Bush's right-wing policies on foreign policy, tax cuts, and the environment, among other issues.

Yoko Ono also has a full-page "Imagine Peace" ad in the "A" section.

DEPT. OF SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION. Slate's Jack Shafer was extraordinarily kind to me in his piece last week on the legendary press critic A.J. Liebling. Read it here.

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